By Cliff Rold
One man won emphatically. The other did enough to win and walked away the loser with his head held high. Last Saturday night was a tale of two different ways to find victory in the sometimes bitter science.
Adonis Stevenson is still the Light Heavyweight Champion and if it feels like now that reign truly begins, that’s fair. No matter the thrill they provide, explosive knockouts can be a mirage. It’s what comes after that tells the world what they’re really looking at.
The world knows much more today than they did a week ago. So does challenger Tavoris Cloud.
Brain Vera wasn’t as fortunate. After all the nonsense about weight, it came down to two men in the ring. Both worked hard within the strands. It was the preparation of Vera that marked his fortunes in the ring and the branding of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. that felt like it played a part in the conclusion.
What next for each?
Let’s go the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Stevenson B+; Cloud B/Post: A-; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Stevenson A; Cloud B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Stevenson C+; Cloud C/Post: B; C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Stevenson B; Cloud B/Post: A; B
Pre-Fight: Speed – Chavez B; Vera B-/Post: Chavez B; Vera B
Pre-Fight: Power – Chavez B+; Vera B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Chavez B-; Vera C/Post: C; B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Chavez B; Vera B/Post: D; A
“Superman” looked pretty super and we begin there. Tavoris Cloud has been outboxed before. He’d never been outfought. He’d rarely if ever been hurt. Stevenson outboxed, outfought, and hurt the man. It was an impressive victory.
Stevenson, at 36, is seemingly still developing. After the Cloud win, it’s fair to wonder if we’ve seen the best of him yet. His grade for speed gets a bump here. The more one watches him, the more that speed stands out. Stevenson has long arms and he gets off as suddenly as anyone in the game. Cloud was getting tagged from all angles and wasn’t reacting until hit. Chad Dawson isn’t slow and he never really saw it coming.
The athleticism of Stevenson is marrying to a ring IQ that is proving top notch. Before the weekend, Sergey Kovalev looked like the heir apparent to the throne. While Stevenson doesn’t seem in a hurry for that dangerous affair, it looks increasingly like an even two-way fight.
If he can get the fight, a defense against Bernard Hopkins is intriguing as well. Hopkins had issues in both fights with Jean Pascal. Yes, he boxed wonderfully in both, but he was dropped twice in the first and visibly wobbled late in the second. Stevenson is showing more technical soundness than Pascal and he hits harder with similar explosive speed.
Could Stevenson be the one to finally end the legend? We may never find out but it’s worth pondering.
Cloud is probably a loss away from irrelevance but gets a tip of the cap as well. He took a sustained beating on Saturday and tried to hang in there. While he proved limited at the elite level, he gave fans a handful of really good TV fights before he hit the proverbial wall. He may have a few more in him, matched properly, before he hangs them up.
And then there was the other half of HBO’s broadcast.
Let’s be simple: Brain Vera won the fight. Brain Vera got jobbed.
Those scorecards were atrocious. 7-3? 8-2? Those were reasonable scores…for Vera. 6-4 for Vera was giving Chavez very benefit of every doubt. He had some good moments. For instance, he rocked Vera late in the seventh. That was a good moment.
What about the rest of the round?
Seriously, someone busted up Chavez’s grill, right?
http://fightscorecollector.blogspot.com/ collects press scores from big fights regularly. Close to sixty press scores were noted. None had Chavez winning. Those that didn’t have Vera winning had a draw.
The scores turned in were so typical as to be comedy. Vera gave up size, gave up time through postponements, and then he did his job in the ring. As always Chavez fought hard inside the ropes but, for the second fight in a row, his lack of serious professionalism in preparations betrayed him.
His petulance after the fight did him no further favor. Already rumors swirl of a rematch. Chavez can, and probably will, win a second time around. Had he been in his best shape Saturday, he probably could have won without controversy.
He didn’t. Vera outworked him in the majority of the rounds, landed plenty of hard shots, and should have had his hand raised.
In a strange way, he did anyways. Vera left with his stock raised for the moment and the chance at another payday down the line. It stinks that sometimes fighters have to rest their hat on a moral victory.
That’s boxing, for better and worse.
Report Card Picks 2013: 37-22
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org